An Expression of Our National Genius

What better way to celebrate the Chelsea Flower Show than with this vibrant painting by Sir Cedric Morris, himself a renowned gardener, plantsman and breeder of exquisite irises and poppies? Morris partied with Ernest Hemingway and Peggy Guggenheim in Paris in the 1920s before settling in the sleepy lanes of Suffolk and creating a garden at The Pound, Higham in the 1930s. (He later taught painting to Lucian Freud and Maggi Hambling).

This painting depicts the hot-coloured flowers of high summer, with species including mulleins, red hot pokers, scabious, pyrethrum, lupins and zinnias. Morris distils the very essence of the plants and there is a fierce, fecund quality to the composition, with the teeming blooms spilling off the edge of the picture. Morris did not use underdrawing but struck out straight onto the canvas with richly-impasted oil paint, seemingly having a complete vision of a painting in his head before he began filling every inch of surface.
In a 1928 interview in Design and Art, Morris stated: ‘I am inclined to believe that selection from natural forms is the expression of our national genius….Neither has anyone exactly copied nature for nature cannot be copied. From natural objects, I obtain line for line’s sake, colour for colour’s sake, form for form’s sake’.

Image information:

Sketty, Swansea 1889 – 1982 Ipswich
Summer garden flowers
Signed and dated lower left: CEDRIC MORRIS 12 – 32
Oil on canvas: 31 ½ x 20 ½ in / 80 x 52.1 cm
Painted in 1932